Fifth Sunday of Easter | John 15:1-8 | I am the Vine, you are the branches

Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2018 (B)

John 15:1-8

Lutheran Church of The Way




It’s Friday, April 27th.

On Monday, the doctors said again that Alfie Evans was a hopeless vegetable.

“There’s no point in keeping him alive,” They echoed.

“Even if we kept him plugged in, he won’t ever be normal – he’ll never be ok.

Alfie will always, somehow, in some way, be a vegetable.

And vegetables don’t bear fruit.”


“We are the vine,” they thought, “and fruitless branches must be cut off.

It is the merciful thing.

Apart from us, he can do nothing.

He’ll die within a few breaths.”


But that was 144,000 breaths ago. Give or take a few.

It’s Friday.

And it has been four days since Alfie Evans was taken off of life support.

Maybe you don’t know who or what I’m talking about.


That is a shame all by itself.

You would think that a life-or-death battle involving the authority of the British crown, Italy, the Pope, and a helpless father and mother would have been bigger news.


But it wasn’t.

Somehow, armed guards blocking a hospital room / morgue  isn’t important enough to talk about on the news.


It’s Friday.

And I’m on the train, praying what I’d been praying all week:

That God would heal him.

I’m not praying for a marked improvement.

I’m not interested in improvement.

I’m interested in healing.


It’s Friday.

And what I’m asking for is full-blown, instant, absolute, no-questions-asked, get up and walk, obviously miraculous healing.

Healing that would make a mockery of our so-called wisdom.

Surely then, not only will this little boy live,

But everyone who beholds him will praise God for it.

What choice would they have?

It’ Friday.

And while I am rightfully riled up, I still shouldn’t be too hard on the doctors.

Odds are they’re doing their absolute best, too.

Maybe some of them are even praying with me.


After all, they don’t understand Alfie’s disease.

And they are beginning to admit that they have exhausted their powers.

Medicine, it seems, can do no more.


So it stands to reason that they are disappointed as well.

It’s neither fair nor charitable to imagine them scheming in dark hallways,

Ringing their hands together scheming to kill a child.


But they are still too sure of themselves.

Though they have enough humility to know they are out of answers,

They still give one more in the form of a life expectancy.


They are so very sure that they are the vine – and Alfie’s only hope for life;

That apart from them, he can do nothing but squeeze out a few pointless breaths.

That’s why they think this few breath death will be a kindness.


The thing is, they’re not the vine.

You heard it just now.


Jesus said,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”


They are not the true vine.

Jesus is.

But if you were listening closely,

There is a very good chance that the Father, the vinedresser, sounds no different from those doctors.

After all, what kind of fruitcan He get out of an unconscious, terminally ill, toddler?

And isn’t that why he seems to be cutting Alfie off?


It’s Friday.

And as I continue to search social media for updates,

I see something that looks like an answer.


Alfie is, in fact, bearing fruit.

And the fruit is this:

People everywhere are praying.

And they’re praying for the same things as me:

In at least six different languages, I saw it.

Prayers to God asking for healing for Alfie;

Prayers to God to heal all sick children;

Prayers to God for the unborn, for the old, and for the dying.


Men and women going home and hugging their children extra-tight,

Thanking God for every few breaths,

And realizing afresh that each one comes only by grace.


The plight of an unconscious, terminally ill toddler in a place they’ve never been to,

Has been driving people all over the world to their knees,

To deep prayer, to love, and even to joy.


It’s Friday.

And that’s the fruit borne by an unconscious, terminally ill, toddler in England.

All of that has been possible because Alfie is attached to the Vine.


Before Alfie could be made a citizen of Italy,

Jesus made him a citizen of Heaven.

Months ago, little Alfie was attached, grafted into the True Vine, Jesus Christ.


In Holy Baptism, Alfie was washed into Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection.

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”


Just like you, Alfie is a fruitful branch because he is attached to the Vine.

And much fruit has been grown because of that.

And you are probably just as aware of the good God works through you as Alfie is.

That’s the way it should be.


But how an unconscious, terminally ill toddler bears fruit might not have been your biggest question this last week.


After all, Jesus said,


“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”



It’s Saturday.

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning,

And we’re getting ready to take the kids here (church) to paint pottery.

It’s Saturday, and I quickly learn that Alfie Evans has died.


My prayers were specific enough.

Along with millions of others, I asked God for total, instant, miraculous healing;

The kind that brings earthly wisdom to shame, and glorifies God.

So where is it?

But the answer already came on Friday.

The news didn’t want to cover it,

But still people couldn’t help but watch.

Something about the very public death of the Innocent that does that.


Each breath is a struggle and a prayer.

As Jesus hangs on the cross, the people around are looking for a miracle –

Some of them truly, some of them in mockery.


The disciples, you can be sure, were sincere.

Just before His passion, Jesus spoke that promise about answered prayer to them.

So they’d like their miracle now.

Wouldn’t Jesus bear more fruit by living than by dying?


But they will not get their miracle on Friday.

They will get it at Easter.

They will get it on the new, eternal, last, 8thday that goes on forever and ever.

They will get their miracle at Jesus’ resurrection.

When the armed guards around Jesus’ tomb fail.


For Christ has, “indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits, of them who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:20)


That is the life and resurrection into which Alfie has been baptized.

That is the life and resurrection into which youhave been baptized.


The Vine is resurrected and living,

So you branches shall be resurrected and living.


For Christ did not simply survivethe grave, as a Divine one-off.

Christ is victorious, and has conquered the grave.

He has mastered it.

And so even the earth into which we are cast will bear fruit on the last day,

As Christ raises the dead in number.


“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”


It’s Sunday.

Not just today, but every day since Christ robbed death of its power.

It is Easter forever.


And when Alfie’s grave is opened,

When your graves are opened as Jesus’ grave was opened,

You shall see with opened eyes what Jesus now declares to opened ears:

Sing out! The Lamb’s Feast is Prepared.

Take eat, this is My Body.

Take drink, this is My Blood.

I love you.

I forgive you.

Your sin is no more.

Death has died.

Abide in my love.


“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”


All is well now forever.

No more tears.

It is Sunday.



About Pastor Hopkins